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The Concept

Service training institutions for cadets worldwide, till the end of World War II were Service specific ie Armies, Navies and Air Forces trained their own cadets. However, one of the important lessons learnt particularly during 1939-45 War was to have greater inter- service integration, not only in men and machines but minds too, to hone the three Armed Forces as an integrated striking force. It was therefore considered desirable to bring the cadets of the three Services together right from the beginning, so that they could start developing and imbibing jointness from the very first day of their training.

The Trigger

In 1941, the Government of Sudan placed a sum of R 14 Lakhs (quite an amount in those days) at the disposal of the Viceroy of India for building a suitable War Memorial as a token of recognition of the services rendered and sacrifices made by the Indian Troops in the defence of its Country. In 1943, General Auckinleck, the Commander-in-Chief suggested the founding of an Inter- Service Academy as the National War Memorial. The Viceroy set up a Committee to examine the proposal and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the members. On 22 Sep, 1945, it was decided that India should have only one academy to train officers for the three Services. It was a very dynamic and important decision, as even in UK and USA there was no such institution!

The core of the Indian experiment was that youth from diverse backgrounds and beliefs would be trained together physically, mentally and morally for sufficient time to be able to act in unison. They would live together, study together, work together, play together, win or lose together. The friendships so developed in the formative years would ensure that the future officers of the three Services were on the friendliest terms with each other and there was a spirit of give and take, mutual understanding and camaraderie. And when they separate, they will be able to appreciate the points of view of brother officers of the other Services. In later years when as senior officers they meet each other in conferences, they will not start in an atmosphere tinged with mutual suspicion, but in one enlightened with their previous knowledge of each other and common experiences and background at the ISW/JSW/NDA.

West Point as the Model

The founding of the ISW/JSW/NDA was an amalgamation of several ideas. A committee of three eminent educationists and a representative from each Service visited military training institutions in UK, USA and Canada, studied their syllabi and functioning. In India there was the Indian Military Academy (IMA), started on the lines of Sandhurst. The attractive features of West Point were its aims and objectives, its honour code as well as the academic curriculum.

A press communiqué was issued on 2 May 1945, stating the intent of the Government to set up a Military Academy on the lines of US Military Academy at West Point for the education and basic training of future officers of the three Services together. This was considered to be the most suitable form for the National War Memorial. Another Committee was next appointed to work out the details of organisation, setting up and working of the proposed Academy.

The report of the Committee was approved in Dec 1946 and a new Section-MT 9 was formed at Army Headquarters, under Col Kamta Prasad, MC, to ensure that various sanctions were obtained and different aspects of the Project were speeded up. The Partition of the Country into India and Pakistan delayed the setting up of the Academy. Subsequently, on 23 Sep 1947, as an interim measure, setting up of a Junior Experimental Wing of the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun was sanctioned, while the planning for the National War Academy at Khadakwasla, carried on.

On 17 February 1948, Government of India accorded approval for the setting up of the Inter-Services War Academy. Subsequently, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru did not approve of the name National War Academy due to its aggressive overtones and the name was changed to National Defence Academy. On 15 December 1948, Colonel Kamta Prasad, Deputy Commandant (designate) and his Team arrived in a deserted Prisoner- of-War Camp in Clement Town near Dehradun, to set up the Inter-Services Wing (ISW).

On 31 Dec 1948, Brigadier Thakur Mahadeo Singh, DSO,
Commandant IMA issued Special Order of the Day. IMA will be re-designated as Armed Forces Academy (AFA) wef 1 January 1949. It will have two Wings; viz. Military Wing and an Inter-Services Wing (ISW). AFA will be the interim National War Academy. Our Country is the first in the World to start the basis of true Inter-Services training and cooperation. It is a unique honour and privilege to all members of the Staff and Cadets who will be associated with the initiation of this great experiment.

The Selection Procedure

India gained independence on 15 August 1947. Prior to and after this date there were intense communal riots in many parts of the Country. The Partition involved massive migration of population, particularly from Punjab and Bengal and resulted in large number of refugees. Education system was disrupted in these two states. The invasion of Jammu and Kashmir by Tribals from NWF Province, masterminded and aided by Pakistan Military started in mid Oct 1947 and Indian Forces got busy in J&K. Indianisation of the Armed Forces was also taken in hand. In spite of such preoccupations of the Ministry of Defence and Services Headquarters, in particular the Army Headquarters, it was very creditable that arrangements to start the ISW as early as Jan 1949 were made with considerable speed and efficiency.

The advertisements for entry into First Course ISW appeared in various newspapers towards the Third Quarter of 1948. The selection process comprised of preliminary selection at different Sub Area and other headquarters. The successful candidates were asked to appear before Services Selection Boards (SSBs) at Meerut, Bareilly and Bangalore. Candidates for the Air Force were sent to the Air Force Selection Centre at Clement Town. Those who made the final merit list were intimated through letters and service telegrams to report to ISW at Clement Town, between 6 and 9 Jan 1949.

Cadet Ashok Datta (A-26) had the distinction of being the first ever cadet who got "A" rating at the SSB. The SSB took this as a case study and monitored Ashok's career while he was at the JSW, later IMA and thereafter. Ashok Datta proved the SSB rating right, as he became the Academy Cadet Captain in JSW, won the President's Gold Medal for being the best all round cadet and later repeated the same at IMA also. Unfortunately, his brilliant career was cut short, when he passed away at a young age, when he was only a Lt Col.

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